England’s Ashes campaign lies in tatters. Already down 0-2 in the series, and having done well to reach 403, after being down to 131 for 4 at one stage, thanks to generosity of Australian fielders, who grassed three chances which allowed England to recover on the back of brilliant fightback by rookie Dawid Malan who scored his maiden hundred 140 and gutsy Jonny Bairstow provided him good company scoring 119, his fourth Test hundred. After having posted a competitive total at world’s fastest pitch WACA, England allowed Australia to wriggle out of tight situation, as has been the case at many stages during the series.
Smith played a brilliant counter-attacking knock and was unbeaten at 229 along with Mitch Marsh who was not out 181, his maiden Test hundred at stumps on Day 3. While we are aware of Smith’s class and unusual shuffling technique which allows him to score freely on either side of the wicket, it was Mitch Marsh’s attacking innings which hurt England the most. Prior to this innings, Marsh had an average of 22, highest score being 87 with two fifties in 21 Test match plus 29 wickets. He is tall, strapping and bowls in the region of 140ks. Australia is grooming him for a Test all-rounder role and prefers to play him on fast pitches. England expected Australia to restrict under 400 after Shaun Marsh got out, but his younger brother Mitch flayed feeble English attack to all parts of the ground and even outpaced Smith.
England’s bowling is as toothless as a newborn! You need out and out fast bowlers in Australia who can bend their back and generate disconcerting pace and bounce to discomfort batsmen. England had taken medium-pacers Woakes, Overton who may be good in their backyard, but in Australia they are proving to be an easy meat for Australian batsmen who are relishing their line and length bowling suitable for English conditions. To be fair to English bowlers, they tried hard and bowled their heart out, but if you allow a No.6 batsmen, whose previous best in Test was 87, to stroke his way to 181 not-out at a strike rate of 77 on world’s fastest pitch, is not only unacceptable but also a sad commentary on your bowling. England even tried bodyline tactic, unsuccessfully, against Smith and Marsh via Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes but it was a slow version of bodyline used to stop the batsmen from scoring runs freely rather than getting them out. England simply don’t have fast bowlers to make bodyline effective.
England’s most successful Test bowler Anderson has been below par in the series or should I say is not as effective and lethal as he’s in English conditions. Oddly, England seems to have more class and pedigree in their batting with good mix of experience and youth – Cook, Root, Stoneman, Vince, Malan, wicket-keeper Bairstow versus Australia’s Bancroft, Warner, Smith, Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh. While Warner and Captain Smith are world-class and have proven track-record, Marsh brothers are yet to establish themselves in Tests, Khawaja has shown promise which is yet to translate into performance at the highest level.
Australia’s fast bowling trio – Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins are too hot to handle and making the stay of England’s batsmen at the crease quite miserable. They are routinely breaking the helmets of England’s batsmen. Yesterday Stoneman’s helmet was unhinged by a sharp bouncer from Hazlewood. In the second Test, England’s captain Joe Root was hit on the helmet. It is a psychological blow, which is not easy to recover from for a batsman. Besides red hot fast bowling, England’s batsmen has to negotiate the sharp turn and bounce which Nathan Lyon is able to extract from the pitch with his classical off-spin action, as he puts his whole body behind the ball and provides more revolutions to the ball than is the case with most off-spinners.
I’d predicted Australia winning the Ashes before the series began, but as things stand now or being unfolded, it seems too easy, a cakewalk for Australia.
December 16, 2017